Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ohio Gets Major Dollars For High Speed Rail

This is in no way a comprehensive report, but it seems Ohio will be getting $400 million federal dollars towards creating high speed rail connections on a planned route linking Cincinnati,Dayton,Columbus and Cleveland. The route is somewhat suprising but perhaps wise, providing it's a start.

If you think about it a bit, one grasps that that one of the Midwest's greatest assets is the gently rolling or flat land that makes transport easy. Chicago was the city of broad shoulders because it acted as the central rail head for a vast,rich and flat area of the country. Like it or not, geographic realities place us practically closer to the cities of the Midwest than to most in the east.

As far as I can tell, other funding will be granted to make a link from Chicago to Detroit and Pontiac, a route that honestly seems to make little but political sense. No progress will be made so far on the logical historic rail link between Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

I will try to follow this and remain optimistic. The whole thing feels weird. On the one hand, almost all logic and common sense points to the need to revive a great rail system. But, should the government--the same entity that used so much cash and power to destroy our cities and create such a misguided free road system be in this game? How's it done taking care of our highways?

Even more disturbing is that, no real break as far as I can tell has been made with past mistakes. We just don't have money to continue supporting most of our road infrastructure while building a new rail system at the same time. Real goals and choices have to be made. The wisest one being to systematically cut off most federal interstate highway dollars while leaving the market to quickly start creating alternatives, which almost certainly would revolve around rail. (The idea everything must be really high speed is a wasteful fetish. All that's really needed is to be significantly faster than driving.)

By the way, if you haven't noticed it, one of the primary reasons given for Federal Highways was as emergency urban evacuation routes-- a concept proven wrong on numerous occassions like the 2005 failed evacuation of New Orleans. (When the Federally "guaranteed" levee system broke)

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